There once were two cities, close in proximity, but very distant in experience.
The one city was full of people who had no past; the other, people with no future.
This isn’t to say that the people with no future had nothing coming and their counterparts had nothing behind them, just that neither had foresight nor recollection, respectively.
In the city with no past, everyone was very reckless, having no memory of the horrors of the day, week, year or century before. Children were constantly burning their tongues on a hot cup of cocoa, not being able to remember the pain of last winter’s scald. People would jump out third story windows, simply because they couldn’t remember their cousins falling into comas after doing the same. There was a great need for emergency medical care, and hospitals were as common as corner stores. The death rate was very high. When it came to the heart, they fell in love quickly, only to immediately forget. The future was the only focus, and the people of this city were reckless dreamers.
In the city with no future, everyone was very cautious, having only memories of the horrors of the past and not being able to envision a better world for tomorrow. Everyone was very bitter, very angry and confused. Coats were made of bubble wrap. Sharp corners, slippery tiles, open fires and anything remotely dangerous were outlawed completely. Since there was no future to anticipate, events of the past were the only focus. Everyone walked very slowly and carefully, the memory of a fall a decade before as acute as if it happened only moments before. No one tried anything new, since every new thing had been so terrifying in the past. No one ever loved again after a reckless teenage romance crushed their very beings.
War was not a problem between the two cities, since the people with no past couldn’t remember past conflicts, and the people with no future could only remember the agony of previous clashes. The two cities functioned separately, yet equally as doomed.
One day a beautiful young woman who’s dreams were as big as the endless possibilities of the future decided to take a long walk. Unknowingly, the girl trickled like a bead of water toward the City With No Future.
Eventually, as the sun was setting, she came across the outskirts of the City With No Future. Since, as she dressed that morning, she forgot that it gets cold at night, she found herself shivering as her breath appeared in front of her like a spirit escaping her lips.
Teeth chattering, she encountered a lone house, all rounded and padlocked, and peered into the window. There she saw a handsome young man, wrapped in a blanket, weeping. Not being able to remember that entering the homes of strangers was a dangerous business, she knocked on the door with a naive confidence, despite her shivers.
The man looked up in terror, making eye contact with the woman through the glass. He picked up a board that lay beside him and approached the door with cat-like grace. The door, thick chain preventing its opening fully, slid open, its silent hinges defied only by the slight rattling of the ever-tensing links.
“Go away” he commanded with a quaver. “I’m cold,” she replied, “Can I please come in?” The man thought about this for a moment. “I’ve let people in before and it ended badly”. “What’s before?” she asked with true blissful ignorance and a smile.
Somehow, for a moment—be it the oddness of her sudden appearance on his stoop or perhaps a slight burp in his lowest cortex—the man saw the future for a split second. It involved his lips pressed gently against hers.
The door opened, and the girl rushed in, shaking the cold from her summer dress. “Thanks,” she replied as she flopped down on the couch and pulled a blanket around her. “It’s just as cold in here”, she said. “We don’t light fires anymore. There was once a fire that leaped right out of a fireplace and killed everyone in the house while they slept!” “Wow! That is terrible. Is that going to happen tomorrow?” “Tomorrow? It happened 53 years ago!” The girl’s brow furrowed for a moment, “Ago…” And for a split nanosecond she remembered that she had once lost her baby brother to an enormous blaze.
She shook her head, smiling once more. She patted the couch beside her and lifted the blanket like a great quilted wing, inviting him to join her under the warmth.
“The last time I got under a blanket with a girl, she broke my heart”.
“But I haven’t broken your heart yet, so what is there to be afraid of?”
Against all better judgment, and perhaps because her seeming naivety only made her more beautiful in the darkened room, he moved forward. A nicer thing to consider is that perhaps the glimmer of a future with their lips intermingling acted like a gust of hopeful wind at his back, thrusting him toward her. He sat beside her and she put her arm around him with the gentleness known only to a lucky flower whose petals are caressed by the cheek of a lover.
They sat this way all night, explaining the past and the future. It was similar to a blind person attempting to tell a deaf person what it is to hear in whispered soliloquy, or a deaf person teaching a blind person to see by painting them a two dimensional picture.
As the sun rose, they knew they were in love.
“Will we be together tomorrow?” she asked. “How can we be when tomorrow doesn’t exist and I still hurt from yesterday?”
The girl got up, unable to comprehend the boy’s agony. He stayed on the couch, remembering that people mean pain.
Before she walked out the door, smiling at the possibilities laid out in front of her and unable to experience loss, she turned to him. To take a photograph of her in that second would be to spit in the face of the moment—the memory, the possibility.
She bent over him and grazed his lips with hers. Then she was gone.
Sometimes in the City With No Future, there sits a boy who imagines—if only for a split second—a vague flash of a future with a girl who sits in the City With No Past; and sometimes—if only for a split second—that same girl remembers the feeling of the boys lips pressed against her own.
©Lauren Greenwood 2013